He was humorous: Pastor Ezra Mpyisi’s journey through life’s unvarnished realities

By Esther Muhozi
On 30 January 2024 at 03:14

On the evening of January 27, 2024, the somber announcement was made by close family members that Pastor Ezra Mpyisi had peacefully departed this world at the age of 102.

Born in Mataba in 1922, Mpyisi spent his formative years in Gitwe, where he toiled before embarking on a journey of exile that took him through various countries, including Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya. Revered for his impactful and witty oratory, he infused these qualities into his sermons and interviews.

The latest communication from Mpyisi occurred in December 2023 when he responded to unfounded rumors of his demise, attributing them to individuals with ill intentions influenced by malevolent forces. He promptly dismissed the speculations, affirming, "Where can I go when I am in the Lord Jesus?"

Despite acknowledging the inevitability of life’s conclusion, Pastor Mpyisi, a steadfast believer in God, faced death without fear. He confidently declared, "So whether I depart now or tomorrow, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord Jesus," drawing inspiration from the words of Paul.

He firmly believed that those who departed in the Lord Jesus would experience a resurrection with a new and virtuous nature, liberated from the inclinations towards evil that lead to sin.

Stance against peculiar sayings

In the vibrant year of 2022, a peculiar saying reverberated among the youth— the ’no hundred years’ notion. In response, Pastor Ezra Mpyisi eloquently debunked this belief, emphatically disproving it by achieving the remarkable milestone himself. The revelation unfolded amidst a jubilant celebration orchestrated by his family, dedicated to honoring his centennial birthday and expressing gratitude for his pivotal role in shaping the nation and bringing solace to many hearts.

In the midst of the festivity, Pastor Mpyisi seized the moment to address the misconception with finesse. He declared with unwavering confidence, "Those who propagate the idea that one may not live a hundred years stand corrected. This belief, often echoed by the younger generation, is a flawed prophecy. I stand before you at a hundred, a testament that defies their misguided projections."

‘They ousted me from the church’

In the year 2021, a poignant revelation unfolded as he disclosed a six-decade-long commitment to preaching within the hallowed halls of churches. Initially, the pews were filled, and financial contributions flowed abundantly. A chair of honor was bestowed upon him, yet as he began to unveil uncomfortable truths, the atmosphere shifted drastically.

With a heavy heart, he recounted, "They ousted me from the church, stripping me of my pulpit. Once a revered figure, now I am shunned. A mere decade ago, I presided over weddings, partaking in a charade of untruths. I did not unite couples as the Bible dictates. It was only later that I embraced the profound reality, forsaking the dishonest path I once trod."

‘I was forced to embrace faith in God’

Mpyisi once recounted to IGIHE the story of his introduction to the Adventist Church, recalling an encounter with someone who urged him to embrace faith in God, albeit against his will.

He narrated, "While we were tending to cattle in Nyanza, they found us and compelled us to join.

Registering was mandatory, and skipping services meant facing repercussions, even physical harm to one’s father."

A seasoned pastor with a 70-year tenure in teaching the Word of God, Mpyisi admitted, "I acquiesced to becoming an Adventist, and they emphasized unquestioning obedience to their directives."

In a 2019 National Television interview, Pastor Ezra Mpyisi addressed his past relationship with alcohol. When questioned about whether he had ever consumed alcohol, he acknowledged the prevalence in Rwandan culture during his time but shared, "The time came for me, and I chose to give it up."

Responding to the notion that alcohol might have a calming effect, he straightforwardly labeled it as "dangerous."

Reflecting on his younger self, Mpyisi admitted to being a handsome young man with a penchant for pursuing relationships with women. When probed about whether he had been intimate with them, he responded candidly, "Listen, you’re asking the obvious. I reached a point where Jesus healed me from those pursuits."

Pastor Mpyisi with Bernard Makuza at the celebration of his 100th anniversary.

Stance on witchcraft

When questioned about his involvement in Witchcraft, Pastor Mpyisi openly shared that he witnessed his father practicing it during his upbringing. He acknowledged assisting his father in these rituals but emphasized that, in their perspective, it wasn’t considered a sin as it was an integral part of their religious beliefs.

When pressed on whether he now viewed it as a sinful practice, he vehemently denied any remorse. He explained, "I don’t regret my actions back then because, within our context, it wasn’t deemed sinful. However, my perspective has evolved, and I now regret it because I’ve come to understand what is morally superior. While Rwandans labeled it witchcraft, religious individuals termed it prayer. In essence, it’s the same; only the names differ."

Establishing religious denominations as business ventures

In 2016, at the age of 94, Pastor Mpyisi underscored the surge in religious denominations in Rwanda, attributing it to the founders pursuing their personal interests, often financial gain.

He expressed, "It’s all about their interests. Having a religion becomes a pathway to wealth. It’s akin to a business. It’s about money! Their goal is riches, and the way these religious denominations are structured, people join in, and as they do, money flows in. True religion should be singular because God is one."

Attending a wedding of a traditional healer with ‘magical power’

Pastor Ezra Mpyisi exhibited a remarkable level of innovation throughout his life. While Adventists typically do not endorse beliefs in witchcraft, he ventured beyond conventional boundaries by attending the wedding of a traditional healer with magical power, Rutangarwamaboko. His intention was to illustrate that such practices are not inherently sinful but rather rooted in Rwandan tradition.

He argued, "Consider our own marriage customs—did we not traditionally marry before consummating the union? This is ingrained in Rwandan culture. So, what defines a Christian marriage? Is there a distinction between cultural practices and sin? Do Christians not wear rings? Are rings inherently Christian? Some even incorporate rituals using a plant, Umwishywa.So, where does the differentiation lie?"

Continuing his discourse, Pastor Mpyisi challenged established norms, questioning, "Did God use a ring when officiating Adam and Eve’s marriage? Did he incorporate that plant or veil? Did they go to a temple? It suggests that all these symbols are mere constructs. What God intended was the union, recognizing ’this is your wife, this is your husband,’ and abiding in harmony without worldly conflicts."

He concluded by asserting that elements like rings, elaborate ceremonies, and church weddings are human fabrications, not intrinsic to God’s definition of marriage.

According to him, God’s marriage is characterized by understanding and peaceful coexistence between spouses, transcending worldly conventions.

‘RPF Inkotanyi did a great work’

During the screening of the film "Sogokuru," depicting his life story, Pastor Ezra Mpyisi expressed heartfelt gratitude to his grandchildren who played a role in its creation.

Additionally, he didn’t forget to extend his thanks to the Inkotanyi, the individuals associated with the Rwandan Patriotic Front, who facilitated his return to the country after his period of exile.

He remarked, "Surrounded by these individuals brought together by the efforts of my grandchildren here in Rwanda, the Inkotanyi performed a miracle by reuniting us. In a gathering like this, I would like to emphasize the search for a sacred place, for it is in Heaven where Jesus has gone to prepare for us."

Reflecting on his past, Pastor Ezra Mpyisi candidly admitted in 2020 that one of his deepest regrets was misleading people for many years by preaching inaccurate teachings he had been erroneously taught himself.

He shared, "For years, I propagated misinformation. What brings me solace is that, at the age of 98, God protected me, and in those final years, I delved into the Bible, realizing my errors. I sought the truth and discovered that Rwandans, too, have a profound knowledge of God."

‘White people conned us with sugar’

During the era of colonial influence, Rwandans faced challenges in associating with the white settlers, but the missionaries employed cunning strategies to win the allegiance of the locals. According to Ezra Mpyisi, beyond the compulsory attendance of school, the missionaries enticed Rwandans with gifts like salt and sugar.

He recounted, "Instead of imparting Biblical teachings, they offered us their salt, and we were given sugar to consume. They coerced us, offering salt and sugar, and despite the empty sustenance, we developed an affinity for them."

Pastor Ezra Mpyisi drew attention to a contemporary issue, attributing the rise in teenage pregnancies to parental irresponsibility. He emphasized that merely dressing to cover one’s nakedness is insufficient in teaching a child.

He remarked, "Parents displaying signs of irresponsible behavior, with stained fingers and mouths, cannot effectively guide their children. How can they instill wisdom in their offspring?"

‘There’s no issue in betrothing pregnant women’

Some churches impose restrictions against betrothing pregnant girls, subjecting them to tests even on the day of the betrothal ceremony. When asked about his perspective on marrying a pregnant girl, Pastor Mpyisi promptly asserted that it presents no issue for him.

He elaborated, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing faithfulness. Finding individuals who embody fidelity can be challenging, and regardless of pregnancy, Pastor Mpyisi expressed his willingness to betroth them, emphasizing equality in all aspects.

He underscored the potential repercussions of refusing betrothal based on pregnancy, highlighting the potential harm to the household. His perspective extends beyond pregnancy, as he believes in evaluating individuals based on their commitment to fidelity, rather than passing judgment on their circumstances. He questioned, “How can a son ascertain if his father committed adultery?”

‘The consumption of meat aligns with the act of taking a life’

Pastor Ezra Mpyisi highlighted the belief that God initially provided perishable, raw food for humans, emphasizing that the need for food storage, prolonged preparation, and cooking arose as a consequence of sin.

He articulated, "God’s original provision did not include meat consumption. The act of killing is not aligned with God’s nature, and consuming meat necessitates killing. Personally, I partake in meat consumption, recognizing my status as a descendant of Adam, who, through sin, altered the original order of sustenance."

‘Running after men makes people grow old prematurely’

Pastor Mpyisi noted that, aside from harboring hatred, engaging in promiscuous behavior—men pursuing women and vice versa—is another factor that contributes to premature aging.

He remarked, "A man behaving recklessly ages prematurely, akin to a goat. Consuming alcohol and indulging in foods not provided by God also hastens the aging process."

‘Pastors steal’

Over the past four years, the pastor highlighted a disconcerting reality that, despite God’s commandments explicitly prohibiting theft and continuous teachings by pastors against it, instances of stealing persist within certain religious circles.

He observed, "Consider, which religions can you point to where stealing doesn’t occur, even though they preach against it? They claim to fight for righteousness, yet some steal from the tithe, even those who hold the esteemed title of pastors.

The tithes and offerings intended for God end up in the hands of Popes, Priests, and Bishops, with the promise that they will pray for your path to heaven. Yet, no one can intercede for another’s journey to heaven. It is a direct connection with God that enlightens and teaches an individual, and such divine guidance is not a commodity to be bought or sold."

‘Mary is not the mother of Jesus’

In 2019, Pastor Ezra Mpyisi challenged the belief that Jesus was born of Mary, asserting that such claims are erroneous since the origin of God remains unknown.

He expressed, "Mary is the daughter of Adam, a creation of God. How could Adam, who himself was created, give birth to God? Therefore, Jesus is not the Son of God; rather, he is God."

‘I do not believe in religion’

In 2019, Pastor Mpyisi asserted his unwavering belief in God over any specific church affiliation. He demonstrated resilience, expressing that he wasn’t daunted by the prospect of being disassociated from the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

He declared, "In the eyes of God, only an individual possesses the authority to restrict themselves, and no one else can do so. If someone were to hinder me from reading the Bible, only then would they succeed in isolating me."

‘The Bible has satanic expressions’

The pastor disclosed his belief in the Bible while also acknowledging the presence of what he perceived as satanic expressions inserted by individuals.

‘Understanding normalcy is difficult when you’re dealing with your own issues’

Pastor Mpyisi highlighted that one of the reasons for the breakdown of relationships is the lack of self-awareness, with people expecting perfection in others while not recognizing their own imperfections.

He explained, "It’s common to hear individuals seeking a partner who has maintained purity, yet they themselves have a history of multiple relationships. Before looking for the ideal partner, first, understand and heal yourself.

It’s essential to recognize that expecting someone else to be faultless when you’ve had your own shortcomings is an unrealistic expectation. The more we acknowledge our own imperfections before God, the better equipped we are to understand and accept the imperfections in others."

Pastor Mpyisi's family made his 100th anniversary more colourful.